Project JUSTAS, Canadian plan to acquire military drones drags on

Project JUSTAS is the Canadian military initiative to acquire military drones.

David Pugliese is reporting in the Ottawa Citizen that Canadian Associate Minister of Defence Kerry-Lynne Findlay is saying that the ‘option analysis’ stage of Project JUSTAS is taking too long. The project has been at that stage for more than five years. It has been years longer since the military first announced an interest in acquiring drones.

It isn’t clear why the process is taking so long. The arcane nature of the military procurement process, combined with the secretive,controlling behaviour of the Harper government means that the public isn’t privy to what’s going on. So why has the process taken so long and been so secretive?

Is it legendary military incompetence?

Is it conflicting and changing objectives?

Is it rapid evolution of the drones industry which makes it difficult to pick a drone system?

Is it conflict between the military establishment, and the Harper government with respect to goals, and preferred providers? Are the behind the scenes players lobbying, jockeying, manipulating to get what they want?

Is it interference from lobbyists hired by drone sellers, lobbyists who are mostly retired Canadian military officers with inordinante influence in their old department?

Canadian military planners have stated that they want to have armed drones. Despite knowing the ugly record of extra-legal assassinations carried out by the US, Israel, and the UK, Canadian military brass and politicians appear to see having armed drones as a way to play in the ‘big leagues’ with their NATO allies. The leading source of armed drones has previously been General Atomics with its Predator/Reaper family of killer drones. But Israeli companies are also selling armed drones and there are other companies promoting drones capable of being armed with missiles. (John Baird, touted as the next Defence Minister after Peter Mackay has been jettisoned, is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel who may wish to throw business to an Israeli company).

Military planners in Canada are notorious for wanting hardware that ‘does everything’ so it may be that they are having trouble marrying the armed drone objective with their other stated objective of having arctic surveillance drones.

The CANSEC arms fair is currently being held in Ottawa. Among the exhibitors are at least 8 drones vendors, including Thales (France), Aeryon Labs (Canada), BAE Systems (UK), Elbit Systems (Israel), EADS (Europe), General Dynamics (US), Northrup Grumman (US), MacDonald-Dettwiler (Canadian vendor for IAI of Israel). There are other companies, like L-3 Communications, that provide component technology for drones. No doubt some of them will be using the opportunity to further promote their drone products.

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